A difficult recovery

Thursday 27 November, 2008 by Barbara

I was very pleased to have, quite accidentally, come across the Cancer Council of Victoria (CCV) website when I was searching for information on ‘recovery' from breast cancer. I was frustrated by the side effects I have experienced and the length of time it is taking to recover.

The CCV website was written in a very personal and supportive manner. There was one quote that was especially helpful and encouraging that I saw on your website "Your body will cope with the treatment and recovery in its own way."

I discovered my breast lump in my monthly self-exam. There had been fibrocystic elements in my breasts for many years, but in September 2007, one area had changed. I knew immediately that it was cancer - just had that strong feeling. Coincidentally, I had my annual physical exam scheduled for a few days later. A diagnostic mammogram was ordered and followed up with a sonogram (ultrasound) that confirmed a very suspicious area. I was referred to a fantastic surgeon who ordered a biopsy that confirmed cancer. I had a lumpectomy with placement of MammoSite radiation treatment device on 24 October 2007. I received MammoSite Radiation (targeted ‘balloon') treatments (2 times a day for 5 days) on 4-9 November 2007.

I did not need chemotherapy. I have severe allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. But adequate accommodations and medications made the surgery and treatments themselves mostly uneventful, but have had a complicated recovery.

Since mid-July 2008, I have had lymphoedema in my hand, arm, breast and right side of my upper body. As a result of this, my breast became infected and I received 2 rounds of powerful antibiotics. Then the seroma (area where the MammoSite treatment balloon was located) increased in size and became very painful. I had that aspirated (drained) in August 2008 which relieved the pain greatly. All laboratory tests came back favourable - no additional cancer!

It has been nearly a year (discovery of lump 6 September 2007) since my diagnosis. I still have periods of extreme fatigue along with the lymphoedema and with its pain and tingling and numbness and weakness, I become quite discouraged.

My surgeon says I am doing very well considering my other health issues. As I said at the beginning of this story, I searched the Internet for information on ‘recovery' from breast cancer, and was not encouraged at all by other websites. They all sounded, to me, like I was supposed to follow a pre-set pattern of recovery and deviation from that pattern meant "something was wrong with me".  The TCCV website offered me the clearest information and is written in a very supportive manner. I can't thank TCCV enough for the quote: "Your body will cope with the treatment and recovery in its own way."

Updated: 27 Nov, 2008